On February 20, 2015, I went to the New Mexico Roundhouse to speak out in support of HB 390 Late-term Abortion Ban without the rape exception. My family and I got there early, and I was excited but nervous! This was a big step for me on so many levels. While I have shared my story with more people than I can count, I had never spoke in front of a legislative committee with opposition around me. Why would I go before the committee and share how I was conceived in incest/rape? Because the lives of the rape/incest conceived matter, and as a follower of Christ, I must stand for what is right! A bill with the rape exception IS NOT RIGHT, NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS! Before I go into the details of that comment, I want to share what my day was like.
The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee allowed those who were against the ban to speak first! Their testimonies went for 2 or 3 hours, I believe. (For those who read this, please correct me if I am wrong.) Listening to the pro-abortion statements was difficult so say the least. Some of the comments were comical because the facts presented seemed staged. I had to cough a few times to clear my throat so I could stifle the chuckle. It was heartbreaking to watch soon-to-be physicians and MD’s spout the lies they believe about abortion! Some of these women were so young!!!!!! Even as I listened to them, I was praying for God to reveal the truth to them. There were women who almost yelled at the committee that it was their body, their lives! They had no right! I sat in my chair beside my husband and children, thinking how selfish those comments were! I saw hate spewing from these women’s mouths onto our legislators. It was sad.
After the opposing side had its turn, the line of speakers for HB 390 started to line up. Since I am in a power chair, moving around this crowded room was a chore. When I got to the line of people wanted to testify in support of the bill, I started to navigate through the stream of people. I was treated with kindness and allowed to be second to speak. Oh man, I was conflicted! Relieved that it would be over, I was also so nervous! What if I forget to address the committee? What if I freeze up completely? What if I just cry? What if I make a fool of myself? What if the committee or anyone else hates me and I am mistreated? Those are just a few of the thoughts that I was fighting against. I knew days before that I was to speak, but every time I would sit to write out what I was to say, the paper stayed blank. I sought the Father for His guidance. What did He want me to tell this committee?
I finally wrote down a few words on a piece of paper, while I waited to testify. Here is what I wrote, “Madam and Mr. Chair and Committee, My name is Rowena Slusser and I am in support of HB 390 with an amendment to remove the rape/incest and sexual abuse exception.” I still didn’t know what else I was to tell this legislative body. Finally, it was my turn to the microphone. I vaguely remember reading the introduction off the paper. I remember saying something about the exception being a civil rights issue. The rest of my testimony is a fog. I have seen my video, so I know that I said what was needed, but it was the Lord that put those words in my mouth! I remember seeing the committee through what I can only describe as a wall of water!
I can only imagine what Moses felt going before Pharaoh, knowing that Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened! What of Esther? She becomes queen, only to go before the king, unannounced (which is punishable by death!), to speak up for the life of her people! My life wasn’t on the line. I am not in any physical danger! The bravery of these to biblical heroes is astounding to me. I felt as though I was pleading for the lives of my people! Who are my people? They are men and women who were conceived in rape, incest or sexual abuse! They are the pre-born babies conceived in rape, incest or sexual abuse. They are the women who are marginalized and mistreated for wanting to keep her child! They are the parents who have adopted a rape or incest conceived child! We are the first put on the alter of politics! When our lives are extinguished, so many suffer!
Out of all the “Pro-life” speakers that testified, only four of us stood up for the rape and incest conceived. Not one Albuquerque Pro-life Leader stood against the exception! One of the “Pro-life” leaders called me a good friend! The line of speakers dwindled down, and I was so relieved because we had been in the hearing for over 4 hours at that point. Then I was surprised when my husband said that he wanted to testify. He got up there and introduced himself. Then he said that the supported the bill with amendment to remove the rape, incest and sexual abuse exception. Whoa! My husband is standing up! He has been my biggest support and encouragement! I have always known that he has my back when it came to my past and my conception! But now he was speaking out, telling the committee, that he was thankful to my mom for saying no to an abortion! He said that this exception was wrong! He said how much he valued me, how much he loved me! I was beyond words! That was MY MAN! My man was bold!!!!!! I am so thankful for him! (Casey, I love you and respect you!)
Finally, the last speaker spoke. The committee asked questions of the presenters of the bill. Then the vote was taken. The bill passed committee with the exceptions in. The vote was 4-3 along party lines. My heart broke, but I wasn’t surprised. I was ready to go to the hotel. My children sat through the entire hearing and were tired! I had completed the mission and was ready for some rest and relaxation. But that isn’t what happened.
As we were preparing to leave, I was approached by New Mexico House of Representative Rod Montoya (R-San Juan County, District 1). He positioned himself in a way that made it difficult for me to remove myself. I felt trapped. He whispered in very low tones. He told us that he had other people get up to speak for the bill because he didn’t want the Committee to recall what the previous speaker said! He said that we had to be careful with what we say. If I show that I do not fully support the bill, I could cause it to not go through. I told him that I understood what he was saying , but that I had to speak my conscious! He said that in the House that it wasn’t as big of a deal, but that in the Senate, there were two democratic senators that wouldn’t vote for the bill’s passage if they heard the slightest opposition. He very strongly reminded me that at least some babies would be saved. To this comment, I replied that it was the babies’ lives left out of the bill that was the problem. He assured me that if the bill passed with the exception, that they would revisit it and cover all lives. He said that this bill would save 95% of the babies being aborted late term. I told him again that the 5% is why I am fighting! I told him that I wouldn’t purposely try to kill the bill, but that I will not back down from stand up for babies conceived that way I was. To this, he eluded to me being selfish. I told him that the only way that I might not speak out was if he would email me “proof” of other abortion bills with exceptions, where legislators later removed the exceptions. (Mind you, I know that he cannot do this because it hasn’t happened.) He changed the subject and again told me to stay quite. I firmly told him that I would do what I thought was right. He again reminded me that it would be my fault if the bill didn’t pass the Senate. At this point, my husband engaged him in conversation. I told Representative Montoya that I would consider what he was saying but that I must not back down unless I felt right about it. My husband would ask him questions that would stump him. I will ask my husband if he will write them down so that I can include them later. I finally was able to remove myself from this “silencing” session. I have seen movies where a politician try to manipulate someone to change their stance, but experiencing this in person was surreal.
This adventure reminds me of a clip from the novel Divergent. Tris has chosen Dauntless. She has to jump into the unknown to finalize her choice. She has to have courage and bravery! All she has know is how to be invisible as Abnegation. Selfless. Now she has to be daring, take risk! I see myself a lot in the character of Tris. I have been sheltered in my world, raising my kids, being a stay at home wife and mom. Serving others. I love serving my family and others but it is a sort of comfort zone for me. I am being asked to JUMP OUT of my comfort zone and into battle. My voice, my risk has been minimal. Now the Lord is calling me to scale mountaintops with Him. Take risk.
Testifying in the hearing was a risk, a big risk. This risk has consequences. Some consequences have already presented themselves. I have had painful comments from people close to me. I have been bullied by leaders. My heart is broken! Do I regret standing up, taking the risk? No, I do not! My Savior reminds me that He gives me His peace. I am loved by Him so I do not have to be afraid. This is His working! He will continue to lead me and give me what to say!
My day at the Roundhouse was the first of many advocating for the lives of women who conceive in rape, incest, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking, the lives of pre-born babies conceived in rape, incest, sexual abuse and sex trafficking.